Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu Says He Won’t Be Pressured by United States Into Quick
Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu Says He Won’t Be Pressured by United States Into Quick Action on a West Bank Troop PullbackBy REVITAL LEVY-STEIN
ELAT, Israel (AP) _ Ignoring American calls for quick action, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said today that Israel would take its time in deciding on the scope of a West Bank troop pullback.
Secretary of State Madeleine Albright has said she expects Netanyahu to provide at their Dec. 17 meeting a more ``credible″ withdrawal plan than Netanyahu has offered.
The Israeli dailies Haaretz and Maariv reported today that Albright told Netanyahu she wants Israel to hand over at least 12 percent of the West Bank to Palestinian control in the next stage of withdrawal.
Netanyahu has not said how much land he was willing to hand over in the upcoming pullback. He reportedly has floated plans to give back 6 percent to 8 percent of the West Bank.
It is unlikely Netanyahu could get a 12 percent pullback approved by his Cabinet, and Israeli commentators have said the prime minister is stalling to avoid a crisis at home. During a visit to the Red Sea resort of Elat today, Netanyahu said he would not be rushed.
``When we are dealing with such a fateful process _ and in the West Bank we are talking about the heart of the country _ we will not act quickly and hastily,″ Netanyahu told reporters.
``No outside pressure will help. Before we have an agreement with the Americans, we need to reach agreement in Israel,″ he said.
``There is talk of American pressure. The pressure that I feel is the responsibility of dealing with the future of our country. We are acting with this in mind. ...Nothing will force our hand, and no external pressure will help.″
As part of a U.S.-brokered agreement, Israel had agreed to pull back troops in the West Bank in three stages by mid-1998. The Palestinians rejected the first pullback offer of 2 percent in March as insufficient.